Russian Guided Missile Cruiser Moskva Sinks From Ukrainian Missiles in the Black Sea

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via Wikimedia Commons

Russian Guided Missile Cruiser, Moskva, sunk from Ukrainian Missiles on April 14, 2022

It has been two months since Russian President Vladimir Putin declared his “special military operation” in eastern Ukraine, a war that many ordinary citizens and military experts alike believed would only last a matter of days before the Russian flag was seen flying over Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. However, intense fighting and heavy bombardment are still happening throughout Ukraine. The once renowned Russian army has become nothing more than a laughing stock to the world as its flaws are slowly brought to light. It has faced several major offsets and is stalling on all, if not the majority of its fronts. On April 14, Russia received another significant blow to their invasion, this time being not on land but in the Black Sea. The sinking of their flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet from Ukrainian missiles.
The ship in mind is the Moskva, a Slava-class guided-missile cruiser. The ship’s main armament consists of sixteen P-500 Bazalt, a supersonic anti-ship missile with the same launch tube capable of firing nuclear warheads. It is also armed with one naval cannon, anti-submarine mortars, rapid-fire mini-guns, torpedoes, and both short and long-range anti-air missiles. Originally constructed for the Soviet Navy in 1979, the ship was to serve a variety of purposes, including surface action, anti-submarine warfare, and both anti-missile and air defense. However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the ship found itself serving the Russian navy, where it was refitted with sophisticated surface-to-air missiles and advanced sensors and radar systems, allowing the already outdated warship to still pose a threat with its powerful anti-air defense. Being stationed as the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva was the only ship in the Black Sea that possessed long-range air defense, vital to protecting the rest of the fleet from enemy aircraft and missiles. The cruiser mainly provided air defense for the fleet and some shore bombardment for most of the invasion before the sinking.
The first claim came from Ukrainian officials, stating that they hit the Moskva, near the seaport of Odessa, with two Ukrainian-made Neptune anti-ship missiles. Analysis later confirmed, using satellite imagery, that the Moskva, at the time of the sinking, was roughly 90 miles from Odessa. The missiles were said to have detonated the ammunition resulting in “very serious damage.” The sinking, however did not start until the next day. Russia puts it differently, saying that the damage came from a fire, which caused the munitions to explode, and that the ship was being towed to port. However, the next day the ministry said that Moskva sank while being towed to port due to “stormy seas.” The weather that day, however, was mild. U.S. officials later followed up with Ukraine’s claims.
Four days later, a photo and a short video clip emerged on social media, apparently showing the Moskva, heavily damaged and on fire, hours before the ship went down. Both of them show the ship listing portside (left) with enormous inward-facing holes near the central superstructure, which can only be done from a strike hitting the outside of the ship, making the Ukrainian claim more viable. A senior U.S. defense official stated that the U.S. “Can’t independently verify those images,” but he, along with several other experts and officials, has confirmed that the ship in the photo matches that of the Moskva.
What exactly happened during the attack is still unknown but has left many surprised that the Moskva was sunk so easily. Its sensor system had the ability to detect the missiles three-to-four minutes in advance, plenty of time for the crew to engage it with its long-range and medium-range anti-missile missiles or, if needed, its rapid-fire mini-guns. The most likely explanation is because of flaws in the ship design, inadequate crew training, especially in firefighting and damage control, and possibly malfunctioning military hardware.
The sinking of the Moskva is both a psychological and tactical victory for the Ukrainians. The sinking of the Moskva is another crushing defeat of Russia’s invasion and a morale blow to its already over-exhausted soldiers. However, as the Ukrainian navy is virtually non-existence, Russia’s dominance in the Black Sea will remain. But, without any other ship in the Black Sea that has the same anti-air capabilities as the Moskva, Russian ships are forced to move farther offshore and might be unable to conduct naval landings. The only way to replace the Moskva is to bring new ships in from other parts of Russia, but with Turkey blocking the only strait into the Black Sea under the Montreux Convention, Russia is unable to do such action without provoking Turkey.
The Russians only have two ways to explain how the Moskva was sunk: from a few slow cruise missiles from a country with no navy or its crew was so incompetent that they sunk it themselves. At least the Russians can say that all the Ukrainian missiles were destroyed on impact.